He’s Behind You

3 Stars

I’m going to just start off with the good stuff before I really dig into this review. I loved this story. I enjoyed reading it. I laughed a lot. It was just all sorts of fun. If you’re looking for a short light and hilarious read this is for you. Now that that is out the way the same way I’ve given four or five-star reviews to books I didn’t enjoy this one is somewhere in the grey area of two or three even though I did enjoy it. I had to really think about it but the one thing that would’ve made the book work is the one thing I had the biggest issue with. And that was the timeline.

So Francis is dating, gets a job offer on a series and decides to dump the love of his life to pursue his dreams. Not only is he a hit, he’s also big enough of a hit to be doing things like celeb promos and ribbon ceremonies and business openings and the like. So yay. The book happens a year after the break up so we don’t really get to dig into it which is fine. We know what happens based on the way the present day is told. The problem with this for me is that the timeline doesn’t stick. If he left in December, he likely started filming in January. Let’s say three months of filming before the show wraps up. So, in order for him to reach the ‘name fame’ he had, people would have at least had to watch him for an entire season. So even with a minimum of 12 episodes (American shows hit the 20’s easy) one show per week that’s another three months, this means his fame wouldn’t have even really reached its peak until almost summer.

During the airing time when he isn’t working as his popularity grew that’s when the offers would start coming in, a new contract for season two, if it wasn’t already involved in the first contract, and all the side gigs I mentioned above would happen. But what happens is he gets written off the show. If he was that popular to be able to sell his image for side change how was he written off the show before fans even had a chance to lose interest enough to warrant that? He was popular. His dad got sick and passed during the offseason which is why he went home and that is supposed to be the time the offers dried up. But Francis was new, popular and just starting and it stands to reason he got offered more than one season, so again why isn’t he going back to record season 2? Job offers should effectively still be new if he was as popular as the book made him out to be. And when he left to do the job I got the impression he was signed on for a while, not coming back for season two especially after being a hit with audiences reads like he was only on a one-season contract to begin with in which case he would’ve known he wasn’t coming back.

Just so much about this book hinges on this one-year timeline but when you think of how long it takes to do a good show, how ratings and consumer approval dictate how things go, the likelihood of him being out of the game so fast without being a major flop, which he clearly wasn’t, doesn’t make sense. Unfortunately, at least for me, his demise as a famous actor had to make sense for the book to work.

Timeline aside, I guess I’m over the ‘I have to chase my dreams so I’m leaving you trope’. Maybe I just have to accept that not trying is a thing. At the very least attempt a long-distance thing before calling it quits. What happens if it does work? No harm in finding out. If it’s so easy are we going to breakup with our friends too?

The side characters were fun to read but a bit underdeveloped for what they were used for. Full descriptions of the jobs and who they are in the community and who their children are and so on was just too much information when you consider their only purpose is comedy relief and who they are in the pantomime. It would’ve been much easier to connect to them if we learned about them via how they interacted with Francis as the director. As it stands I still don’t know who they are which is fine because the story doesn’t shy away from stating it’s all about Francis and Ducan. The real flaw in trying to keep the side-characters semi-important arises with the side relationship. The two got caught here, or seen here, and so on, but that’s all word of mouth from the characters. There wasn’t enough of them reacting to being caught and interacting with the main characters even just during rehearsals to sell it so there was no way to get emotionally connected to it. If it was going to be an important subplot, in order to sell the comedy of it they needed much more page time.

The set-up of having Ducan in the play was hilarious. I was here for mom’s meddling in son’s love life. What made it odd is that as a director he needed to know who all the parts are to direct properly. Holding out on that piece of information didn’t make sense. I couldn’t imagine having to direct a play, knowing the actors, and one of them being like I’m not going to tell you who I am. How am I supposed to set up rehearsal dates without knowing who is going to be there?

Then, there was the big angst scene. After a beer and Francis pouring his heart out to Duncan for a second chance, Duncan doesn’t say a single thing that hints at not loving him back. Yet, at the end of it all he says he can’t do this with him. Huh? I had to reread it a few times and still couldn’t find one note of apprehension towards wanting Francis. This response felt so out of place. Forced even. It would’ve been better if he said nothing and just kept the conversation going. But he wasn’t talking or behaving like the type of person about to say no.

What made this worse was only a few pages later the next time they are alone together they share another kiss and are travelling into coupledom. So, I wasn’t going crazy when I thought earlier there were zero obstacles in making this work so why not just say ‘let me think about it’ or even yes and have that second kiss right then and there. The no didn’t have enough weight behind it to hold up and the story didn’t have enough page time to deal with it, and didn’t. Just straight to happy together.

Then the ending was just, over. Like ‘don’t you just love happy endings’ um okay. Just this light little scene with Francis and his mom. It was extremely anti-climatic. I mean I would’ve loved the story better if it ended right after the kiss before Duncan had to run back inside to do the ending scenes. Or maybe a little bit later as it’s Christmas so why not give us a nice big Christmas ending. They broke up at Christmas so why not start again over turkey and pie?

Plotwise this book had me questioning a lot of things. Did I enjoy reading it… definitely. Like I said in the beginning it was all sorts of fun. But as an actual, well put together story it didn’t line up for me from the timeline to the side-characters being written like they were more important than their page time allowed. If you’re in for a good laugh and quick light read, however, this book hits all the marks. I’d definitely recommend it. But for me, the things that seemed off were too important in how the plot itself played out to just ignore.

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